River Cruise Conference in Budapest

Pippa Wilson on 19 March 2022
In March 2022 the CLIA conference was to be held in Budapest, Hungary – a destination I had never visited so I jumped at the chance. I knew that it was the home of the Rubiks cube – the Danube flows through the centre and didn’t know much more but there was so much to Discover. Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is actually pronounced Budapescht. The two cities of Buda and Pest are now joined by a number of bridges. Buda is more hilly and the knoll where the Buda castle and old town sits is called Castle Hill. It is mostly pedestrianised We flew in on Jet2 and had a prebooked transfer which took around 25 mins which took us to the D8 hotel in central Budapest on the Pest side of the river. A great little funky hotel – ideal for the business traveller I would say but a good price for one night. Bags dumped we headed out to find a typical Hungarian restaurant where we were able to try Hungarian Goulash and Beef Stroganoff as well as sampling some wines and beers. The next day we set out to explore the city and made our way across the Elizabeth Bridge to the Buda side and headed along the river bank. We decided to explore using electric scooters which were excellent. You just scan a QR code, upload some funds and then away we went. On this side of the river there is a funicular railway which transports passengers up to the Buda old town There were some amazing structures to see in the city and plenty of beautiful architecture. The Parliament buildings are particularly impressive, As we headed back to our accommodation on the Pescht side of the city, we took a spin in the big wheel there which gave us incredible views over the city. We took an excursion to the edge of the city and visited Heroes’ Square – the largest and most symbolic square in the city. Its statues featuring the seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders. Just beyond the square was the Szechenya Thermal hot baths, the largest medicinal bath in Europe. We spent the afternoon soaking in the healing waters and enjoying the variety of sauna’s and thermal experiences there along with many locals. The water was very soft and the 15 pools varied between 30 and 38 degrees plus there was also a very cold plunge pool just outside the sauna. Each person had an individual cabin to leave their clothes and valuables in and we were given robes and slippers. Beside the Parliament building is a monument very different to anything I have ever seen before. All along the river bank are numerous pairs of shoes, 60 in total – all made out of cast iron. They are in memory of the jewish victims, shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militia Men – a far right Hungarian nationalist party in 1944-45. They were ordered to remove their shoes so that the militia could resell them. They were then shot and their bodies fell into the river where they were then washed away. One excellent way to get around the city was to use their scooters which can be picked up from many areas in the city. We downloaded the app, uploaded some funds and then quickly got to grips with how to ride them. Great for exploring the Buda side of the city although there were less areas to ‘off hire’ them over on the Pest side so maybe plan where you are going to visit.

Crowning the hilly west bank of the Buda side of the Danuble is Castle Hill, an area with fantastic views and packed with historic sites. We ascended using the beautifully restored funicular railway enjoyed walking around the area viewing Buda Castle, Hasburg Gate – Entrance to the Royal Palace and the Eugene of Savoy Monument. We stayed on our host ships during our time in Budapest and were treated royally. Certainly river cruising gets you to the very heart of a city and we were a short walk to all the highlights.

We left Budapest that evening, sailing away down the Danube and experienced the most specatular vista of the city at night – a clear chilly evening with the lights of the parliament building glistening into the reflection of the Danube. Thank you Budapest – I will be back!